Greta Kemp Martin, Democratic candidate for Attorney General, and Ty Pinkins, Democratic candidate for Secretary of State, held joint press conferences in Vicksburg and Greenville this week focusing on campaign finance and voting rights.
“Today, we stand united in this collaborative spirit that should define the relationship between the Mississippi Attorney General and the Mississippi Secretary of State with a shared goal: to ensure that every Mississippian can access their ballot and exercise their right to vote without fear of dark money casting shadows over our elections,” said Kemp Martin.
For the past two presidential elections, Mississippi has ranked below the national voter participation rate. Mississippi also has some of the most conservative voter laws in the country, including no early voting, no same-day voter registration, no online voter registration, and a cumbersome absentee ballot process.
“Other states have instituted ways to register to vote and to get out to vote that make it so much easier and more efficient for their citizens to exercise their sacred right and invest their vote as they please,” said Pinkins.
Pinkins emphasized working with the legislature to initiate key reforms to broaden voter participation and turnout. “Online voter registration, early voting, and absentee ballot reform are good strong first steps and will help our voters immensely. But they’re just the first steps in the fight,” Pinkins said. “We need to look at systems that have worked well in other states to produce very high voter turnout rates, such as the Same-Day Voter Registration, and the Vote-at-Home system, an innovation that ensures ballots are sent automatically to every registered voter and provides multiple return options, from mail, to polling location, and even secure drop boxes.”
Mississippi has also struggled with laws that prevent access to the ballot box. Earlier this year, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals found a provision in the Mississippi Constitution barring certain felons from voting to violate the US Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Both the current Secretary of State and Attorney General are appealing the decision, in an attempt to keep it on the books.
“There is a clear line between the Mississippi constitutional provision that prevents certain former felons from voting and our horrific racist past,” said Kemp Martin. “This provision has already created profound damage to thousands of Mississippians who have served their time, yet are permanently disenfranchised.”
Additionally, the Mississippi legislature passed a law this year, SB 2358, which penalized Mississippians who helped people with disabilities vote. A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order before the August 8 primary. Kemp Martin previously said “Mississippians with disabilities have a right to vote without barriers and to have access to fully participate in all areas of civic life.”
As part of her Roadmap to Restoring Public Integrity, Kemp Martin released an op-ed last week detailing the failings of the current Attorney General in regard to investigating and prosecuting campaign finance violations.
“Trust and transparency should be the foundation upon which our democracy stands,” said Kemp Martin. “Unfortunately, my opponent has fallen short on her duties to enforce campaign finance laws.”
This year’s Mississippi primary saw record amounts of out-of-state and secretly sourced campaign money funneled into a candidate’s election, followed by allegations of blatant violations of campaign finance laws and reporting requirements, all with only one investigation opened by the Mississippi Attorney General.
Kemp Martin highlighted the need to not just investigate campaign finance violations, but to proactively audit records. “My administration would work with the Secretary of State to implement regular audits and compliance checks for campaign finance reports to address issues before they become million-dollar problems,” Kemp Martin said.
Secretary of State Michael Watson and Attorney General Lynn Fitch traded political barbs in July over campaign finance and investigative authority. “Mississippians need leaders who will work together and, frankly, answer each other’s phone calls. While our current Secretary of State and Attorney General spend time playing cat and mouse, Ty Pinkins and I are ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work,” said Kemp Martin.
“In a state that has a long history of violating the rights of voters, especially for people of color, it is more important than ever that Mississippians know the candidates who are fighting for them,” said Pinkins. “Your vote is the most valuable currency you have as a citizen. Our overly restrictive, confusing, and often unfair voter registration and election processes and laws devalue that currency, and steal it from our citizens.”